Q&A with LA-based guitarist Carl Verheyen - One of the Top 100 Guitarists of All Time - has created a wildly successful, multi-faceted career

"I believe music has the power to uplift the spirit and that’s the energy I want to impart. There is a little part toward the end of the title song “Sundial” that everybody I’ve played it for smiles when they hear it. It’s a combination of the background vocals swelling up against the major chord and the lead vocal… I live for that!"

Carl Verheyen: The Joy of Music

In his 50-plus years of playing the instrument, Carl Verheyen has created a wildly successful, multi-faceted career. He is a critically acclaimed musician, vocalist, songwriter, arranger, producer and educator. Carl is commonly regarded as a guitar virtuoso capable of playing any style of music with remarkable mastery and conviction. He has been one of LA’s elite “first call” session players for the past 38 years, playing on hundreds of records, movie soundtracks and television shows. As a solo artist, Verheyen has graced the pages of countless industry publications and been the subject of numerous articles chronicling his rise to the forefront of the modern-day guitar scene. Carl has won numerous polls and musical honors. A member of the British rock group Supertramp since 1985, Carl has played to millions of enthusiastic fans in sold out arenas worldwide. As the creative force behind the Carl Verheyen Band, he has released an impressive and eclectic discography that showcases his endless talents across a wide array of musical genres. The CVB tours all over the world and continues to draw fans on the festival circuit as well as theaters and clubs.                          (Photo: Carl Verheyen)

A much sought-after studio musician, Carl plays on other artists’ CDs whenever his busy schedule permits. He has recorded and played with a virtual who’s who of the music industry. His vast collection of movie soundtrack and television credits is enviable. 67,000,000 people heard Carl as a featured soloist at the 2009 Academy Awards. He is also heavily featured in the documentary film about the electric guitar called Turn It Up! As an active performer, songwriter, teacher and producer Carl continues to work and practice the guitar everyday. Carl recognized as "One of the World's Top 10 Guitarists" by Guitar Magazine and "One of the Top 100 Guitarists of All Time" by Classic Rock Magazine, will bring his new Carl Verheyen Band on a Fall 2021 tour of Europe to support the release of his new album Sundial (will be released soon in the year). “Sundial” is an esoteric record comprising of rock, funk, ska, soulful ballads and afro-pop music. Recorded during the music industry’s “Grand Pause” of 2020, guitarist Carl Verheyen adopted an “anything goes” concept and variety is the theme. “The title track ‘Sundial’ was an attempt to write a healing and uplifting piece of music that makes me feel good every time I hear it,” says Verheyen. Orchestrated with acoustic and electric guitars, piano, organ and backing vocals, the song soars through jazz-rock, prog-rock and even folk-rock moods and emotions. The record immediately takes a left turn with an instrumental called “Kaningie.” Inspired by a record collection of Afro-pop recordings and crossing it with the feel of the Santana classic “Soul Sacrifice,” Carl wrote a wild and relentless melody captured live with 2 drummers in the studio.

Interview by Michael Limnios             Carl Verheyen, 2012 Interview @ blues.gr

Special Thanks: Carl Verheyen & Billy James (Glass Onyon PR)

How has the music (and the Counterculture of) influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

On my 2016 release “The Grand Design” I recorded the Bob Dylan song “The Times They are a’Changin’ and those lyrics are as relevant to me today as they were back in 1965. Being influenced by the social upheaval of the 60’s must have had an impact on my young and impressionable mind because I’m still a liberal thinker. A positive effect has been my openness and ability to embrace the local cultures of the many places I’ve traveled over the years. When I leave on a 5-week tour I’m able to look at my life from a different perspective and get away from my little “scene” at home. A broader world view is always healthier. 

Where does your creative drive come from?

I’ve always been inspired by the sheer joy of hearing the notes in the air. My practicing has always been completely devoid of exercises, so instead of studying to become a musician, I’m playing music and working on lines, melodies and rhythms I can play on stage or in the studio. That keeps me interested and motivated.

"I miss great songwriting most of all. Songs as great as “How Deep is Your Love” by the Bee Gees are not being written today. Diatonic harmony (music all in one key) is fine for folk music and simple country songs, but popular music is missing writers like Lennon/McCartney, Paul Simon, Elton John, Brian Wilson and many others that explore great harmony. My hope is that songwriting-by-committee ceases to be popular and the artistic vision of some talented writers returns." (Photo: Carl Verheyen)

How do you think that you have grown as an artist since you first started making music?

I grew immeasurably from being a member of Supertramp, the British rock band I joined in 1985. From band leader Rick Davies I learned about arranging, simplicity, and integrity. Supertramp played the same show in New York City as we did in a little town in far-northern Canada and I insist on the same quality and professionalism with my own band. Also, from working in the LA studios for 30 years I learned to be fearless. It can be very intimidating being a guitarist on an orchestral session with 105 musicians waiting for you to learn your part, but after many years you arrive at the mentality of: I’m the expert in the room on my instrument! No one else here has spent 10,000+ hours behind the guitar. So, if I can’t play it, nobody can!

What characterize new album’s "Sundial" esoteric music philosophy and songbook?

In 1980 I had a musical revelation. It occurred to me that I was learning and playing straight ahead jazz all the time to the exclusion of many other styles of music that I love. Blues, rock, fusion, country, bluegrass and solo acoustic guitar were all genres that I thought I just didn’t have the time to work on. But I realized something that has guided my career all these years: I refuse to be bound by specialization! “Sundial” is an extension of that philosophy and, even though the songs are all quite different I believe it flows nicely from one song to the next.

How started the thought of instrumental tune "Kaningie" and what touched you from the Afro-Pop music?

I borrowed a four-disc CD set of African music from the library and studied the rhythms. I was able to get drummers Cahd Wackerman and John Ferraro to capture the wild looseness and joyous abandon of the melody, and we recorded it live in the studio.

"I’ve always been inspired by the sheer joy of hearing the notes in the air. My practicing has always been completely devoid of exercises, so instead of studying to become a musician, I’m playing music and working on lines, melodies and rhythms I can play on stage or in the studio. That keeps me interested and motivated." (Carl Verheyen / Photo by The Man with the Camera)

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

In the USA terrestrial radio has become a corporate disaster with most stations being programmed by companies designed to get the most listeners at that time of day from a certain demographic. Gone are the days of creative DJs programming what they like. I would love to see radio go back to that. As a kid growing up in Los Angeles, we heard very different radio than the kids in San Francisco. We heard our local bands like The Doors and Buffalo Springfield, whereas up north they were listening to their local acts like the Grateful Dead and Quicksilver Messenger Service. The same goes for New York and Boston.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss great songwriting most of all. Songs as great as “How Deep is Your Love” by the Bee Gees are not being written today. Diatonic harmony (music all in one key) is fine for folk music and simple country songs, but popular music is missing writers like Lennon/McCartney, Paul Simon, Elton John, Brian Wilson and many others that explore great harmony. My hope is that songwriting-by-committee ceases to be popular and the artistic vision of some talented writers returns.

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your experience in the music paths?

Just like in any business, a musician needs to be able to reinvent his or herself every 5 years.

What is the impact of music on the socio-cultural implications? How do you want it to affect people?

I believe music has the power to uplift the spirit and that’s the energy I want to impart. There is a little part toward the end of the title song “Sundial” that everybody I’ve played it for smiles when they hear it. It’s a combination of the background vocals swelling up against the major chord and the lead vocal… I live for that!

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